International travel red list reduced to zero

The government has confirmed the removal of all the remaining seven countries from the government’s red list for international travel.

It means the requirement for hotel quarantine for those returning from Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic will be removed from 4am on Monday, November 1.

The red list itself, and 10-day hotel quarantine, will both remain as restrictions the government can deploy but there are no longer any countries on the red list. Reviews will continue to take place every three weeks.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We will keep the red list category in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health and are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK’s first line of defence.”

He confirmed the changes via Twitter this afternoon following reports, emanating from the Telegraph, that the red list and hotel quarantine would be scrapped altogether.

The Department for Transport followed up with a communication that explained: “Delta is now the dominant variant in most countries around the world. This means the risk of known variants entering the UK has reduced and the government can confidently remove these seven destinations from the red list, with decisions informed by UK Health Security Agency’s assessment. The data for all countries and territories will be kept under review, including the emergence of new variants, and the government will not hesitate to take action where the epidemiological picture changes.”

Earlier this month, 47 countries were removed in one of the biggest reopenings of foreign travel since the start of the pandemic. The removal of the amber list on October 4 was announced last month.

The red list has been updated every three weeks since it was introduced as part of the UK’s traffic light system in May. After the last change, on October 7, only seven countries remain on the list. Hotel quarantine was first introduced in February.

More than 200,000 people have stayed in quarantine in hotels since February, according to the BBC.

The DfT said the government has reduced the amount of quarantine hotel rooms it requires due to the reduction of the number of countries on the red list in recent months. However, it said “a number of hotel rooms remain on standby”.

Eligible fully-vaccinated passengers, and most under 18s, arriving into England from non-red list countries have since October 24 been able to use lateral flow tests on day-two after arrival, with a free confirmatory PCR test if they test positive. The same rule will apply to arrivals in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from October 31.

All arrivals will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel into the UK, unless exempt.

Also from Monday, eligible travellers from more than 30 new countries and territories will be added to the UK’s inbound vaccination policy, meaning vaccinations in more than 135 countries are now accepted at the UK border under the government’s fully-vaccinated rules.

In the DfT communication, Shapps said: “This is another step in the right direction for international travel with more good news today for passengers, businesses and the travel sector. We’re continuing to make great progress as we recover from the pandemic and today is another example of how far we have come.

“Whether it’s reuniting family members or making it easier for businesses to trade, the success of the vaccine rollout both at home and abroad has allowed us to reach this milestone. However, we must not be complacent and remain ready to spring into action and defend our hard-won gains if needed.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid added: “I am glad we are able to reduce the travel list even further, giving a huge boost to businesses, families and friends wanting to travel.

“The red list and quarantine remain vital in protecting our borders – we are keeping a small number of quarantine rooms on standby and will not hesitate to take swift action by adding countries to the red list if the risk increases again.”

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